KABUL -- President Ashraf Ghani has ordered Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) to adopt an offensive position against the Taliban and other militant groups in response to a recent uptick in violence.
Ghani made the decision during a meeting with residents and elders from Nangarhar Province at the Presidential Palace in Kabul September 12, after a series of deadly terror attacks throughout the country.
"The enemy must know that when attacks are carried out against children, women, elders and the general public, it's my duty to give the enemy a response," he said. "I have ordered the security forces to switch from a defensive position and take offensive actions."
"The enemy's attacks on civilians show that it cannot fight [our] security forces," he said.
"Our offensive operations have begun, and Afghan forces have had much success over the past few days against the enemy," Ghani said.
The change in strategy comes after the Afghan government attempted a conciliatory approach in June -- with a three-day mutual ceasefire with the Taliban for Eid ul Fitr.
In August Ghani proposed a three-month ceasefire starting during Eid ul Adha, to which the Taliban never responded.
"The ceasefire [in June] showed that there is a nationwide consensus about peace in the country," he said. "[It] showed that the nation is tired of fighting."
ANDSF's new offensive position is aimed at destroying militant strongholds, especially those of the Taliban, according to the Defence Ministry.
"The enemy wants to harm the peace process and the [upcoming parliamentary and presidential] elections," Ghafoor Ahmad Jawid, a spokesperson for the ministry, told Salaam Times.
"It carries out suicide bombings and explosions in some parts of the country," he said. "We have increased our military operations against the [militant] groups in order to neutralise the enemy's terrorist plans, provide [Afghans] with security and to pave the way for [voters] to participate in the elections."
"With the increase in our military operations and the [ANDSF] shift to offensive positions, we are determined to destroy the centres of the Taliban and other terrorists from where they organise their terror attacks," Jawid said. "This way, they can no longer carry out suicide attacks in major cities and among civilians."
"Our security forces have intensified operations to crack down on terrorists in Nangarhar, Kunduz, Helmand, Ghazni, Paktia, Baghlan and Farah provinces," he said.
ANDSF killed at least 67 militants in joint operations across the country, including air strikes and ground raids carried out by commandos, the Defence Ministry said in a statement September 13.
"The Taliban have no choice but to come to the negotiation table and join the peace process," Jawid said.
Afghan analysts lauded the intensification of military operations, saying that more pressure exerted on the Taliban will help force them to join peace talks.
"By rejecting the ceasefire [in August], the Taliban have shown that they are reluctant to end the war peacefully," Moqadam Amin, a Kabul-based military analyst, told Salaam Times.
"The [Afghan] military offensive against the Taliban is a welcome move," he said. "The Afghan government should force the Taliban to join the peace negotiations through this increased military pressure."
"Since the Taliban do not want to end their decades-long war through political dialogue, intensifying operations against the group and thwarting their terrorist plans and objectives are the last and best option to either defeat them or to force them to negotiate for peace," Asadullah Nadim, a Kabul-based military analyst, told Salaam Times.
"The Taliban will never win through war," said Farhad Hashemi, a Kabul-based political analyst. "The past two decades of fighting has proved this."
"Crime, suicide attacks, explosions and killing of innocent Afghans committed by the Taliban have caused the public to hate even the name of this group," he told Salaam Times. "[The Taliban] must stop this fighting and violence before [Afghans] and the government forever shut the doors of dialogue in their faces."
"The Taliban's terrorist and extremist activities have cost them their credibility among Afghans," said Kabul University psychology professor Khalil Sarwari. "Their ideology has failed, and they can never win [the Afghan public] through war."
"When the ideology of a group fails, it will also lose its fighting capability on the battlefield; hence, its demise will be imminent," he told Salaam Times.
How likely are the Taliban to hold direct peace talks with the Afghan government before presidential elections in July?